Jenny Willott MP and Liberty hold DNA clinic in Cardiff

19 November 2009

Today Wales’ first ‘DNA clinic’ launches in Cardiff, giving free legal assistance to people whose profiles have been unfairly added to the DNA database. Jenny Willott, Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, along with lawyers from human rights group Liberty will provide help and advice to those who want their DNA profiles removed from the national database.

Liberty has dismissed new Government proposals for the DNA database as ‘inadequate’ and called for the UK to comply with last December’s European Court of Human Rights judgment and remove innocents from the DNA database.

Jenny Willott MP said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for innocent people in my constituency to receive expert advice on how to get themselves off the database. I strongly urge any residents living in Cardiff Central in this position, to book an appointment at this DNA Clinic.”

Anna Fairclough, Legal Officer for Liberty, said:

“The Home Office intends to stockpile innocent peoples’ DNA for as long as it thinks it can get away with. The popularity of our DNA clinics show this causes real concern to people who have done nothing wrong but find their profiles held alongside those of rapists and murderers. It is time for politicians to show us they care about personal privacy and the presumption of innocence.”

Forty percent of Britain’s criminals are not on the database but hundreds of thousands of innocent people are. The National DNA database is one of the largest in the world, holding 4.5 million profiles – this includes around 300,000 children and approximately 850,000 innocent people who have never been charged or cautioned.

To book a place at the DNA clinic call Rachel Thomas on 02920 668 558.

Contact: Mairi Clare Rodgers on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831 128

Notes to Editors

1. Liberty agrees that a carefully managed DNA database can be a valuable crime detection tool. However, repeated legislative changes have rolled out retention policy by stealth so that anyone arrested for even very minor offences can have their DNA held for the rest of their lives, even if they have been mistakenly arrested. DNA is relevant only to a small number of serious offences, mainly involving sexual assault or violence. Liberty believes that the correct and proportionate approach to the National DNA Database would be based on allowing retention of DNA for those convicted or cautioned for these types of serious offence. 2. DNA timeline:

· 11 May 2001 the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) is amended so that DNA taken after arrest no longer had to be destroyed on acquittal or where proceedings were discontinued.

· In April 2004 PACE is amended again to enable police to take DNA or fingerprints of anyone aged 10 or over who is arrested for a recordable offence.

· From 2005 under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) all offences become arrestable offences casting the net for DNA sampling ever wider.

· 4 December 2008 – European Court of Human Rights hands down judgment in the S and Marper v UK ruling that the UK’s policy of indefinite retention of DNA is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

· 18 December 2008 - Government publishes Policing and Crime Bill to which clauses were added to allow for regulations to govern DNA and fingerprint retention. As the Bill makes its passage through parliament there is widespread cross-party opposition to the use of secondary legislation for an issue of such importance. Under the regulation power, parliamentarians would after only a 90 minute debate, have to accept or reject the regulations in their entirety with no opportunity for amendment

· July 2009 – Home Office launches consultation on future of DNA retention post S and Marper. Among other things the Government proposes that DNA of those arrested but not convicted is retained for periods of 6 and 12 years. The Government relies heavily on research from the Jill Dando Institute to justify these proposals. This research is subsequently widely contested in the scientific community

· August 2009 – Home Office consultation on DNA closes. Read Liberty’s response to the consultation here: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy-09/liberty-s-response-to-dna-database-consultation.pdf

· 19 August – Damian Green MP announces that the police have agreed to delete his DNA record following his widely controversial arrest relating to Home Office leaks.

· 25 September 2009 – spokesperson from the Jill Dando Institute announces on the Today programme that the Government’s proposals for DNA retention periods had a flimsy research basis at best. On the same day, Diane Abbott launches the first Liberty DNA clinic in an attempt to advise innocent young people in Hackney on how to have their DNA removed from the database – future clinics are expected around the country.

· Ahead of Committee Stage of the Policing and Crime Bill in the House of Lords the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Front Benches and other peers tabled an amendment to delete the same Regulation making clauses from the Bill. The tabled amendments were due to be debated on 20th October 2009.

· 19 October 2009 – the Home Office announces that the clauses in the Policing and Crime Bill which would allow for regulations on DNA retention are to be dropped from the Bill.

· 20 November 2009 – Liberty and Jenny Willott MP hold a DNA clinic in her Cardiff Central constituency.